COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Vikings have been fortunate enough to have had some excellent quarterbacks in franchise history. Names such as Fran Tarkenton, Warren Moon and even the first year of Brett Favre come to mind.
The Vikings have also seen their share of dismal play behind center, as evidenced by the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, the Donovan McNabb fiasco and the second year of Brett Favre.
The jury is still out on current starter Christian Ponder, who could very well find himself joining either batch. If the Vikings are planning for a return to the playoffs in 2013, they will need Ponder to play more like the first group. He showed glimpses of becoming a fixture of the first group against the Lions, making several nice long throws to Jerome Simpson, but also showed why he is just as likely to join the second group, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble in Minnesota's 34-24 loss to Detroit.
Ponder is entering his third season in the NFL and is beginning his second season as the starter. He has been up-and-down so far in his short career and the Vikings are looking for more consistency from the quarterback position beginning with this week's game against the Chicago Bears.
Ponder could find himself on a shorter leash this season than in the past, as evidenced by the signing of backup quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel may have fizzled out after a couple of solid seasons in Kansas City, but he is much better option than previous backup Joe Webb, who was horrendous when forced into service against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs, and has since been moved to wide receiver.
The Vikings have Adrian Peterson to keep opposing defenses honest, but if the opposition doesn't respect the passing game, things could become more difficult for the Minnesota offense. The Vikings drafted Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of the 2013 draft and signed free agent Greg Jennings away from the Green Bay Packers to give Ponder more targets.
The Vikings boast a solid offense line, led by Pro Bowl tackle Matt Kalil and center John Sullivan, who was named 2012 first team All-Pro by the Pro Football Writers Association. Fullback Jerome Felton, who will miss the first three games of the 2013 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, made the Pro Bowl on the strength of his blocking.
The Vikings have surrounded Ponder with enough quality pieces to expect some decent results in 2013. It may not be easy, as the NFC North is a difficult division with the likes of Green Bay, Chicago and a Detroit team that already looks to be an improvement on the 2012 edition of the Lions.
The Vikings are going to need Ponder to make some plays in crunch time this season. So far in his career, Ponder has essentially been limited to being asked not to lose games. Now the Vikings will rely on him to win a few by himself. If he can, the Vikings could very well sneak into the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Allen Moody is an author and sports bettor living in Nevada. A newspaper sports reporter for 12 years, he has been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings since the 1970s.
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